One of the largest operators of export coal mines in the region, Xstrata Coal NSW maintains a strong focus on its responsibilities to meet strict statutory dust emission limits at its open pit and underground operations in the Hunter Valley. Measures adopted range from haul road watering and dust suppression sprays on coal stockpiles, to planting temporary cover crops on exposed areas and suspending operations in difficult weather conditions. A host of other measures are in place, including widespread installation of real-time dust monitoring devices and use of advanced dust suppressant products on haul roads.

“The idea of employing our advanced equipment operator training simulators to educate staff on actions that can reduce dust emissions to acceptable levels was explored and then implemented, with excellent results so far,” said Xstrata Coal NSW Training Manager Darryl Cooper. “Working with simulator supplier Immersive Technologies, we have adopted industry leading practices for integrating simulation technology into our group operations training program. We have made a significant investment in a fleet of PRO3 simulators and a dedicated, skilled team of trainers and coordinators to deliver sustainable results.

“This has been achieved in the second year of implementation, and is now being leveraged with quality feedback and collaboration with our supplier of simulation technology, leading to these new development initiatives,” said Cooper.

“Our ongoing commitment to environmental management and workforce safety compliance is evident in our annual operator competency assessment of all mobile equipment operators,” said Cooper. “They must achieve full compliance, which includes an emergency response assessment check.”

Immersive Technologies worked closely with Xstrata Coal NSW on the development of new features for the latest version of SimControl, the software at the heart of the PRO3 Advanced Equipment Simulator. The enhancements resulting from this collaboration specifically target dust level monitoring and control.

In targeted scenarios in the simulation training program, an equipment operator observes dust levels from ‘drone trucks’ in front of the operator’s machine, and must take appropriate action. The actions taken by the operator are automatically monitored and assessed, with real-time feedback and debriefing or reporting after the training.

Another scenario simulates excavator dust generation during dumping. Operators are given instruction and then assessed on their technique in maintaining the correct dumping height to produce the least amount of dust from the truck tray being loaded. The higher the operator rolls out the bucket, the more dust is generated.

“Improvements developed in consultation with Xstrata Coal have now been released in SimControl 4.4, which is a software upgrade distributed to Immersive Technologies customers under service agreements,” said Immersive Technologies Regional Business Development Manager Phillip McBride. “This new functionality quantifies equipment operator risk associated with negative environmental behaviors and facilitates rectification of the negative behaviors.”